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A Leadership Idea that can Work Today

“Leadership” means the ability to lead an organization, a company, a party, or an entire country. The difference lies only in the size and articulation of the organization, where a State is enormously more complex than a party or a company. But, in the end, the basic principles are the same and are never disproved by the judgment of the time.

In my opinion, realistically, an effective leader, at any level and context, has an ideal and faces it with the visceral determination of “whatever it takes”. Simply, after having gathered all the information, he makes his choice, taking responsibility for it, without then giving it to someone else.

To drive you need to have competence and attention to content. Otherwise, for a while, you can pretend to be competent, but if you are not profoundly competent due to experience and skills commensurate with the complexity of the organization, the result will be a failure, all the more overt as the fiction lasts.

Over time, the paucity of the plans implemented or the absolute vagueness in communications (not to say the pathetic and false propaganda) and perhaps even the money is thrown away for the sole purpose of building a personal image will emerge. And, over time, it will appear in all its power impossible to hide even the difference in results between a competent and an incompetent leader. And often, for those who discover it perhaps late, this is difficult to accept.

“Leadership” means passion, which is a word whose Latin etymology is “to suffer for something”, not only in a negative sense but also in a positive sense, for an aspiration or an ideal.

The ideal of a leader must be the harmonious and supportive development of the company in a now global context. And, above all, not a facade of solidarity without solid foundations, but the construction of a community that creates development and wealth through clear and shared rules.

This type of passion does not provide for authoritarian, narcissistic, or demagogic attitudes, on the contrary, it abhors them, because these degenerations make it more difficult to obtain the desired result, which depends on the concreteness of the results and not on empty words aimed at capturing easy consensus.

This does not mean that passion is cold. If anything it is the opposite, because whatever it takes and, believe me, we can do a lot, is a declaration of war – passionate, strong and determined – to those who do not share the passion for this ideal. What counts is the willingness to make no compromises except when strictly necessary. And in any case never in the event that these compromises mean a renunciation of one’s passion and one’s integrity.

Leading an organization means taking responsibility and not blaming someone else. Listening to everyone, carefully, but then decide, alas, for yourself. The decision is often an act of enormous difficulty, because the decisions do not always turn out to be right and the responsibility for a wrong decision falls only on the leader. The easiest way not to decide, and therefore to be a bad leader, is always to define a “process” and therefore some apparently robust rules, but in reality, only covering one’s own responsibility. So, one can then tell: “I didn’t decide, the process we defined together decided”.

There is no doubt that there will be errors, but will not witness the ignoble fiction according to which “the experts” would have decided, who in turn do not make decisions or take responsibility and have a one-sided worldview, linked to the very narrow field of their experience.

Those who have led complex organizations know that loneliness in decisions is often dramatic, just as they know the difficulty of making unpopular or risky decisions instead of taking the path of easy populism, which collects applause but is wrong in the medium term. These are moments in which a person chooses to be right, at the cost of being absolutely alone, and drags behind him, with his strength and his passion, a “people”, an entire team. Then, time will show that these choices contained the vision and courage typical of a great leader.

The loneliness of the leader defines his capacity and standing because the long-term vision often contrasts with the drive towards the easy and wrong path.

A good leader must be ready to step down and leave at any time. This does not mean being renounced (if anything, the opposite), but being realistic. If the conditions no longer exist to lead an organization, resigning and leaving the field is much nobler than remaining attached to power. A good leader is never attached to power and does not use power to perpetuate his leadership in a personalistic sense but to lead.

It is possible to command, but in the moments that matter, without fuss, without witnesses, and even without mercy.

Power means choosing the team, the strategies, the main actions, and evaluating the results. It also means letting everyone know that power will be harshly exercised if necessary, but not bragging about power out of vanity. Above all, it means choosing between different alternatives in an often controversial or non-obvious way, and clearly stating that one is choosing one path because one thinks is better than the other one.

A good leader, if necessary, pays the price for an error, but does not change his word, because the price of inconsistency is always higher than the cost of a difficult road. Precisely for this reason, speaking little and with very well-considered statements is a fundamental characteristic of a good leader.

Finally, and perhaps most important, is the motivation to be a leader. The only acceptable motivation is the well-founded belief, demonstrated by the results, of being able to do well or very well in one’s leadership work. For this reason, you cannot become a leader without doing the “apprenticeship” of leadership.

Being a boss is a profession and you learn it, first in small areas, then in increasingly larger contexts, accumulating experience, learning from mistakes and experimenting with your skills. If, on the other hand, one becomes a leader suddenly and without any experience, the obvious consequence, as soon as you have understood or experienced the great privileges of a leader, is to try to remain a leader forever, just because you are afraid of not being one anymore.

A true leader, on the other hand, always has the ability to leave his post, without losing dignity and authority.

The true leader is not the one who makes himself the center of the universe, but the one who makes the institution (country, organization, company, etc.) which temporarily represents the center of his action.

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Aldo Delli Paoli
Aldo Delli Paoli
Aldo is a lawyer and teacher of law & Economic Sciences, "lent" to the finance world. He has worked, in fact, 35 years long for a multinational company of financial service in the auto sector, where he held various roles, until that of CEO. In the corporate field, he has acquired skills and held positions as Credit Manager, Human Resource Manager, Team leader for projects of Acquisition & Merger, branch opening, company restructuring, outplacement, legal compliance, analysis and innovation of organizational processes, business partnerships, relations with Trade Unions and Financial Control Institutions. After leaving the company, he continued as an external member of the Board of Directors e, at the same time, he has gone back practicing law and was a management consultant for various companies. He has been also a columnist for newspapers specializing in labor law, automotive services and work organization. His interests include human behavior in the organizational environment, to the neuroscience, the impact of new technologies, the fate of the planet and people facing poverty or war scenarios. He loves traveling, reading, is passionate about many sports, follows the NBA and practices tennis.

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4 CONVERSATIONS

  1. Lovely article on leadership with an analogy to drive a car. the emphasis on the driver & his competence and attention to content is most appreciated. The article is very exhaustive, deals with the driver. the driver’s interest is to cover mileage ( go towards the goals) . In order to do that the state of the car is also important . Recall some cars in India of earlier vintage which were not reliable. Frequent overheating or breakdowns obstructed the driver in making the progress. ( unlike modern cars with excellent mileage, sound proof conditioned , packed with safety & assistive features) . In such scenario the driver or the leader gets down with repairs or restoration ( fire fighting with the organisation day after day ) and in doing so loosing on the mileage to be accumulated.

    So my addition is that the Car should be state of art and good condition . Of course this choice has to be made by driver or leader , but within what is available

  2. So many posts are pouring on leadership but Aldo Delli Paoli knows how to approach this important topic with fresh thinking and ideas.

    Having read the post the two thoughts that caught my attention were:

    To drive you need to have competence and attention to content.

    “Leadership” means passion, which is a word whose Latin etymology is “to suffer for something”, not only in a negative sense but also in a positive sense, for an aspiration or an ideal.

    This type of passion does not provide for authoritarian, narcissistic, or demagogic attitudes, on the contrary,”

    Driving a car and driving an organization is the first idea that struck my mind. Do not both need attention to the competence of the driver and the content?

    Both require passion as well. If not “accidents” shall occur and both leaders of organizations and cars shall not reach their destination. for sharing this thoughtful post..

    Thank you Dennis Pitocco for sharing and hosting this post.

    • In reality we are experiencing years of serious difficulties both globally and locally and, perhaps it is right to ask ourselves which leadership (national, corporate, in everyday life) “realistically” can be able to tackle so much complexity, and even in a short time.

      My heartfelt thanks for your time and appreciation.

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